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Boyfriend charged in death of Reedsport 7-month-old.

Byline: Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard

REEDSPORT - The mother of a 7-month-old child returned from grocery shopping Tuesday to find her baby boy battered, bruised and not breathing.

Reedsport police on Wednesday arrested her live-in boyfriend, 19-year-old Christopher John Gonsalves, on charges of murder by abuse and second-degree manslaughter. He was being held in the Douglas County Jail.

News of the death saddened workers at the state's Department of Human Services, who had been working with the mother in recent months, spokeswoman Patricia Feeny said Wednesday.

"There's probably nothing more unsettling or heartbreaking than to hear of a child's death, particularly through abuse or neglect," Feeny said. "You never get comfortable with this kind of case, and I hope we never do."

Police and medics were called to the couple's apartment at 2655 Frontage Road in Reedsport at 9:13 p.m. Tuesday on a report of a baby who was not breathing, police Chief Bob Gross said. Medics tried in vain to resuscitate the infant.

Officers immediately noted signs of foul play, Gross said. The baby, Codi Nathaniel Lee Jones, had obvious bruising on his face and head, he said.

The mother, who is 20, told investigators that she left the baby with Gonsalves while she stepped out for groceries, Gross said. When she returned, she found the baby in his bed. She noticed his injuries, saw that he was unconscious and not breathing and called for help, the chief said.

Gonsalves voluntarily accompanied officers to the police department for questioning, and he was placed under arrest Wednesday, Gross said. He was not the baby's biological father.

A statewide search of court records showed that Gonsalves pleaded guilty in January to driving under the influence of intoxicants and misdemeanor charges of recklessly endangering another. He was sentenced in Douglas County Circuit Court to 10 days in jail, and the judge revoked his driver's license for a year.

Analysts from the Oregon State Police crime lab on Wednesday gathered evidence at the couple's apartment. Investigators canvassed the apartment complex in search of witnesses, but no one reported seeing or hearing anything suspicious the night before, Gross said. An autopsy is expected today.

Workers with the Department of Human Services had been in touch with the family, Feeny said. Confidentiality laws prevented her from disclosing details of the family's issues, but she said families come to the department's attention for any number of reasons.

Police found no previous reports of child abuse involving the couple, Gross said.

A team of human services experts will conduct a standard three-day fatality review of the case, examining documents, conducting interviews and reviewing the family's case file, Feeny said.

The number of fatalities caused by child abuse or neglect in Oregon has steadily decreased in recent years, state statistics show.

In 2001, the latest year statistics were available, eight Oregon children died as a result of abuse or neglect, an abnormally low number for the region. DHS recorded 21 deaths in 2000; 18 deaths in 1999; 17 deaths in 1998; 34 deaths in 1997; 30 deaths in 1996; and 36 deaths in 1995, the highest in the past decade.

The department has not studied any connection between the fluctuations and factors such as unemployment, difficult economic times and drug and alcohol use, Feeny said.
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Title Annotation:Crime
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 3, 2003
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